The February (28) 2015 election is the negotiated solution to the political stalemate that had hit the coalition government in a much more apparent manner since the beginning of 2014. Since the inconclusive parliamentary election that was held in May 2012 in Lesotho, which produced the coalition government between All Basotho Convention, Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Basotho National Party, it has always been clear that the coalition government was riddled with many challenges that might prohibit it from completing its five-year term. Its inherent challenges have always been many and varied. However, key amongst them has always been that the coalition government was based on the threadbare majority of 1 seat in the National Assembly. The strained relations caused government to be dysfunctional, thereby necessitating the external intervention from SADC. Thus, election came as a negotiated outcome of the SADC mediation between political players.
Thus, this piece provides the analytical updates of the election starting with the 27th February 2015 – the day before election. It provides the overview of the key electoral dynamics of the day and the implication for the credibility of the March 28th election.
Readiness of Independent Electoral Commission.
The 27th February 2015 was the final day for the electoral logistics by the IEC. IEC was concluding the distribution of the electoral material to all the voting stations in the eighty (80) constituencies across the country and finalising deployment of polling staff. This process was done with the involved and oversight of the Logistics Committee of political parties within the IEC. This is the standing committee of political parties contesting election in Lesotho. It is part of the various committees established by IEC in order to comply with its legal obligation to involve stakeholders in the preparations and running of electoral processes.
Under normal circumstances, deployment of personnel and distribution of material is not a big issue, as this would be done with assistance from the Air Wing department of the army – especially when it comes to far-flung voting stations that are inaccessible by road. In all the previous election, this has been the norm, and it didn’t bring up any major political disputes. This year, the distribution of election material by the army became a major political issue, because of the perceived partisan nature of the army and its role in the preceding political challenges. However, the matter was mediated by SADC Troika and the solution was that the army would not provide any security services during election but it would still support with the flying of election material. As per agreement, the army was confined to the barracks save for the Air Wing department. This solution appears to have been acceptable to all players, as there were no major rumblings about the participation of the army to that extent. So the process went fairly smoothly.
Security was a major issue for this election. One of the major issues that laid bare the dysfunctional nature of the coalition government was the management of the security agencies – the army and the police. The two key security agencies were perceived as partisan, whereby Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) was viewed as sympathetic to the DC/LCD tacit alliance and the police was viewed as aligned to ABC/BNP tacit alliance. Thus, few weeks before Election Day, ABC/BNP alliance was of a view that while the LDF still remained without clear control from the Prime Minister, a credible election was impossible. Matters came to a head two weeks before the election when LDF issued a statement that it will deploy and maintain a visible presence across the country until Election Day ‘for purposes of maintaining law and order’. The matter even became a subject of political negotiation under the SADC Troika whereat it was agreed that on the election day the army would be confined to the barracks and security to the polling processes would come from the Lesotho Mounted Police (LMPS) with the support of police from SADC countries.
So on the 27th February 2015, the LMPS was finalising its deployment of personnel to all the voting stations across the country. The process was fairly smooth as there were no reported security issues related to the poll. The LMPS was assisted by the election security officers recruited by IEC.
International Community and Election Observation
The 2015 election in Lesotho is largely a product of the support of the international community to Lesotho as the decision to go to election was brokered under the hand of SADC, which even provided the Facilitator in the person of the Deputy President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa who facilitated all the major stages in the run-up to election. So the international community had a special interest in the election and the locals were keen to receive sustained support from the international community throughout the electoral period, and even beyond.
In the run-up to election, most of the international organisations to which Lesotho is member deployed election observers. The organisations that deployed missions to Lesotho are African Union, Commonwealth, SADC, SADC Parliamentary Forum and the international NGOS like Electoral Institute for Sustainability of Democracy (EISA) and SADC NGO Council. All these international observers deployed their missions to the various parts of the country on the 27th February. In similar manner, the local observers also finalised their deployments on that day. Local election observers largely came from local NGOs, the church and the media.
General Political Environment and the Media
In terms of the electoral law, election campaigns must be stopped 24 hours (two days) before Election Day. In other preceding elections, politicians normally find it hard to comply with this rule as they would be doing the underground campaigns and using media in a veiled way to campaign. This normally causes rumblings from political competitors. This time around the political players by and large observed this rule. Even the media, which ordinarily is very partisan and inflammatory about election process observed the rule.
It could be concluded that on the 27th February 2015, a day before the polling day, the environment and preparations were all set for a credible election on the 28th. There were no obvious threats in relation to either security or logistics that could erode the credibility of the election.ShareThis